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Despite the best veterinary care, a beloved family Mastiff succumbs to the MRSA bacteria previously associated only with human hospital fatalities.





by Judith Perrin


Phoebe, our Mastiff girl did not reach her 4th birthday. Our knowledge is useless to us now, except to tell everyone that if your dog needs surgery, ask your veterinarian about his MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) control and protocols. If the answers minimize the MRSA infection issue, go elsewhere!!!


MRSA PROVEN DEADLY TO DOGSPhoebe had knee replacement surgery (TTA) done in August of 2011. We were reassured that hers was a top surgeon, a Diplomat in his field. He let us know that this was a simple surgery that required dedicated physical therapy afterwards and leg would be darn near as good as new. We made the trip and stayed in a hotel in order to have our girl treated in this top of the line facility.


Photo At Right: Phoebe with her best friend, Teddy, a Coton rescue. Despite the enormous difference in size, Teddy's 20# to Phoebe's 200#, they played, ran and slept together. Teddy is now deeply grieving for her...


Right after surgery, she spiked a temp. Stayed an extra day and came home on antibiotics. Two weeks...fine. Then, an insidious little bump formed at the site of the surgery that gradually became larger and warmer to the touch.


This was MRSA but we were told she had a seroma and to let it heal by drain. Now we know why. The MRSA had so invaded the surgical site and her blood stream that things were dicey even then. But the veterinary surgeon, without examining her, kept saying everything was fine. Lump got bigger.


Phoebe was leaking this fluid everywhere. Finally we asked our local vet to call the Diplomat surgeon who said that a seroma lasting for weeks was not a problem, and absolutely no drain should be inserted to drain it off. He told the local vet she could draw some fluid off. At the start, this required inserting a needle to drain off the fluid every couple of days. It wasn't unusual to drain off a liter at a time.


At that time no one knew that the fluid was full of MRSA so no protection was offered anyone - the vet, the vet techs, the other dogs in the waiting room, our other pets and our family were all being exposed to MRSA.


Phoebe continued to have fluid drawn off for weeks. She was in terrible pain, lost weight, was lame and became too weak to walk more than a few steps. Finally, a culture was done by our local vet. This is when we found out that Phoebe had MRSA.


Off she went to another surgical specialist in a different big city hospital that knew how to handle a dog with MRSA. They had rigid disinfecting procedures, especially in their operating rooms, and the ability to isolate a patient with a contagious disease.


An exam and review by 3 specialists and more X-rays found that the screws were out of the appliance. There was a hole in her tibia. After months there was no healing. The surgical site was a mess as the appliance had been placed incorrectly. MRSA was rampant at the site. MRSA had also been in bloodstream all these many weeks.


Phoebe was happy to be relieved of the pain of the misplaced implant rubbing a hole in her tibia, but was quite weak after this second major surgery.


It appeared that we were on track until the sulfa drug given to treat MRSA began to make her horribly sick.


She had to have the knee implants removed as the infection was focused heavily at the surgical site. They removed as much of the MRSA infection as they could, put her leg back together temporarily with screws and wires. They were to be removed after several weeks and replaced by a new implant.


We switched antibiotics. MRSA had five antibiotics that might work for her infection but each culture is different, with different results, because MRSA is a super bug...a shape shifter.


New meds were huge dose Doxy. We had to adjust the dose so that she wouldn't be so sick from that too. Now, she would smile ... wag... but not eat unless forced. She was often too weak to lift her head. We slept with her each and every night, on 24/7 nurse duty.


She got weaker, was no longer able to make red blood cells. Blood volume was so low, the veterinarian couldn't draw blood from her leg. White blood cells were high. All of her blood tests showed her whole body was completely out of whack.


With aching hearts, we called the vet and asked to put her to sleep. Vet asked for 24 more hours...gave Phoebe a massive dose of Dexamethasone. 80ml. We kept her at the vet hospital for IV fluids and IV Baytril....this was her fourth antibiotic and we were fast running out of options.


The next day, we knew it was the end. We put our beautiful, young baby girl to sleep. She put her head on my lap, while my husband held her. Five months of fighting...and we lost.


Our hearts feel as if we have suffered a nuclear blast...leaving only pain behind. Yes, we will remember good times...but there are damn few of them when you lose a beloved dog, especially one so young.


I want to stipulate that the care given by our local vet was without blemish. She made home visits, gave blood tests, sent her techs to give Phoebe injections, etc.


Mayo Clinic defines Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection as "a strain of staph bacteria that has become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections".


Harvard Health notes "Many types of bacteria can cause skin infections. Most cases are caused by Staphylococcus aureus ("staph") or Streptococcus pyogenes ("strep"). Strep infections still respond well to standard antibiotics. However, that is not true for all staph infections."


MRSA infections are associated with hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis centers, especially following surgeries or IVs.  There is however, another type of MRSA infection that has occurred in the wider community — among healthy people. This form, community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA), often begins as a painful skin boil. It's spread by skin-to-skin contact. At-risk populations include groups such as high school wrestlers, child care workers and people who live in crowded conditions.


MRSA spreads from person to person by direct contact but indirect contact is also a means of contagion. The bacteria can survive on objects like towels, benches, shaving equipment, etc. For a person to become infected, MRSA usually needs to have a breach such as an abrasion, cut or skin rash.


Related Information: ii Infectious Proteins / Prions EST 1998 © Mar 2012-14122008



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